286. Summary of Conclusions of a Special Coordination Committee (Intelligence) Meeting1

SUBJECT

  • Nicaragua

PARTICIPANTS

  • State

    • Warren Christopher, Dep Secretary
    • Viron Vaky, Asst Sec/ARA
  • OSD

    • ADM Daniel Murphy, Dep Under Secretary for Policy
  • JCS

    • General David Jones
  • DCI

    • Frank Carlucci, Deputy Director
    • [name not declassified] Act Ch/LA/DDO
  • OMB

    • Dr. John White, Dep Director
  • Justice

    • Griffin Bell
  • White House

    • Zbigniew Brzezinski, Chairman
  • NSC

    • Robert Pastor
    • Donald Gregg, Notetaker
[Page 702]

Summary of Conclusions

CIA presented a three-fold covert action plan for Nicaragua2 involving:

—Expansion of propaganda;

—Giving support to non-Marxist groups and creation of a covert internal organization; and

—Transferring assets with leftist credentials from other countries to support the first two options. (S)

CIA stated that it would be virtually starting from scratch in implementing this program. Mr. Carlucci, drawing on past experience in Portugal and elsewhere, predicted that the Marxists would move quickly to gain control over the press, labor unions, interior ministry and military groups. He felt they could count upon money from Cuba and additional aid in whatever form they desired it, including military. The moderates on the other hand, are disorganized, lacking in resources and to a great extent, unknown. CIA, if authorized, would plan to identify non-Marxist individuals, to get in touch with other friendly groups and to do what it could to promote splits within the FSLN. Mr. Carlucci said a finding was necessary to cover all phases of the operation. CIA will orchestrate its effort with the objectives of having free elections held, to work against any form of violent retribution, and to support any moderate elements in the National Guard. (S)

A discussion followed as to whether the CIA plan was specific enough to seek a Presidential Finding. A consensus emerged to support the presentation of a finding for the CIA plan.3 The pivotal factors were the extreme fluidity of the current situation, the rapidity with which the Cuban-supported elements will move, and the need to give [Page 703]CIA the proper authority to move as quickly as possible. The total cost of CIA’s plan was $750,000, [1 line not declassified]. (S)

  1. Source: National Security Council, Carter Administration Intelligence Files, Box I020, Minutes—SCC 1978. Secret; Senstive. The meeting took place in the White House Situation Room. Gregg sent the summary to Brzezinski under a July 17 covering memorandum requesting that Brzezinski approve the summary and forward a Presidential Finding to Carter for his approval. For additional information about the finding, see footnote 3 below. Brzezinski approved the summary and indicated that it should be distributed to the CIA.
  2. Carlucci’s July 11 memorandum to Aaron forwarded a “broad outline of CA [covert action] possibilities in Nicaragua” to help “initiate the discussion.” (Central Intelligence Agency, Office of the Director of Central Intelligence, Job 81M00919R: Executive Registry Subject Files (1977–1979), Box 13, Folder 28: C–352 Latin America)
  3. Under a July 19 memorandum Brzezinski sent Carter a Presidential Finding “authorizing a limited CIA covert action plan for Nicaragua.” Brzezinski noted that “CIA states its assets are limited and that moderate elements in Nicaragua are scattered and lacking in support. The extreme fluidity of the current situation and the rapidity with which the Cuban-supported elements will move indicate the need to give CIA authority to operate as quickly as possible.” Carter initialed the memorandum. (National Security Council, Carter Administration Intelligence Files, Box I026, Nicaragua Revolution 1 July 1979–22 Oct. 1979) The Presidential Finding, which Carter signed on July 19, authorized the CIA to “assist democratic elements in Nicaragua to resist efforts of Cuban supported and other Marxist groups to consolidate power including providing such democratic elements with funds and guidance; and also by disseminating nonattributable propaganda worldwide and in Nicaragua in their support and in opposition to Cuban involvement.” (Central Intelligence Agency, Office of Congressional Affairs, Job 81M01032R: Subject Committee Files (1943–1980), Box 9, Folder 20: Covert Action Pres Find Nicaragua) For status reports on the ongoing covert action in Nicaragua, see Documents 325 and 489.